The Haunting (1999) is a Fun Horror Movie Meant for a Relaxing Evening
A good ghost story is easy to come by, especially when filmmakers keep making movies adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, published in 1959. An entertaining movie birthed from that source material is the 1999 film The Haunting, starring Lily Taylor, Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Owen Wilson.
When people say The Haunting of Hill House, or even just “Hill House,” it’s easy to think about Mike Flanagan’s excellent adaptation on Netflix. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. Way back in the olden days of the final year of the 1900s, we got a nice little haunted house movie with some solid actors, good practical effects, and great-for-the-time computer graphics.
I would call The Haunting a fun movie. It’s not seat-of-your-pants scary, as there are no real (intense, well-executed) jump scares, but instead we get a brooding, creepy atmosphere throughout the movie.
This contains spoilers, as usual, so you’ve been warned. The movie is over two decades old, though, so if you haven’t seen it yet, that’s on you.
We start out with a strong introduction to Eleanor (Nell), and we see her in some emotional and financial trouble. Her mother, whom she’s been taking care of for eleven years, just died and now Nell’s going to get kicked out of her apartment. But then! The phone rings and tells her to respond to a $900-for-a-week ad for a psychological study.
Nothing feels forced or unnatural here, and it’s a decent character setup. Liam Neeson’s character gets a shorter setup — he’s the psychologist running the fake study of insomnia that is actually about fear — but it’s clear what he’s doing and what his motives are.
Don’t worry, I won’t rehash the entire movie here. Go watch it now if you need to. I will, however, give you some highlights that I think are a good argument for sitting down and enjoying this film.
The house — Hill House — is gorgeous. It’s huge, looks like it should be haunted, and is filled with amazing art that is subtly creepy. Not too much goth, not a lot of black, but enough of…